Rosemary: Dish Up a Distinctive Flavor
Rosemary is one of the hardiest of plants to thrive in hot, dry conditions. Native to the hillsides of Portugal, Spain, and the Mediterranean regions, it is now widely cultivated throughout much of the world. Rosemary has thick, woody stems and green and white, tough, needlelike leaves. Rosemary leaves have high oil content, a strong pine fragrance, and a flavor similar to mint and pine. It pairs very well with other strong flavored foods like lamb, beef, and game and makes a good marinade for all of these. It is also a good match, in small quantities, for bold flavored vegetables and can infuse a subtle, fragrant undertone when a whole sprig is placed in a pot of soup or stew to steep for a short period of time. Rosemary has antiseptic and antioxidant properties and is often used as an air freshener and in cosmetics.
Be Wise and Add Sage to Recipes
Sage is a pale green shrub with woody stems and slightly fuzzy, long, and somewhat narrow leaves. Native to the northern Mediterranean and cultivated world wide, sage is a hardy plant that survives well under many conditions. The flavor of sage can be described as somewhat similar to camphor with hints of lemon and a slight bitterness. Sage is probably recognizable to most Americans as a flavor that evokes memories of Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing. It goes without saying that sage is a natural complement to poultry, but is also quite nice when paired with pork and veal and when simmered slowly in stews or pots of beans. Younger, more tender, and less intensely flavored leaves can be used sparingly in salads, with eggs, and with some vegetables. Sage is known for many of its antiseptic and astringent properties and has been useful in treating sore throats, cuts, and bruises. It is also widely used in the production of cosmetics because of its soothing properties and calming fragrance.
How to Use Winter and Summer Savory
There are two types of savory used in cooking--winter savory and summer savory. Both originate from the Mediterranean region and Western and Central Asia. It is believed that savory was introduced to England by the Romans during Caesar's reign. Both types grow as a small, woody bush with leaves that are attached in pairs at the stem, are long and narrow at the base, and a bit wider at the tip. Summer savory leaves are soft and more gray-green turning to purple in late summer. Its counterpart, winter savory, has leaves that are dark green and glossy. Winter savory has a deeper, more piney taste, similar to rosemary and is commonly paired with heartier foods such as game, red meats and pates and sausage.
Both types of savory are good matches for all types of beans and legumes and in fact are referred to by the Germans as the bean's herb. While winter savory lends itself to hearty food preparations, summer savory is more often used with lighter beans and legumes such as green beans and lentils. It also pairs well with chicken, lighter meats, and most types of vegetables and is palatable enough to be eaten raw when added to salads and other fresh dishes. Savory is commonly used in herb blends, particularly a Middle Eastern blend za'tar, which is a mix of savory, thyme, and marjoram. Savory has a history of medicinal uses, the most common being regulating the sex drive. It was believed that winter savory decreased sexual desire while summer savory was thought to be an aphrodisiac. It's no wonder that summer savory became the more popular of the two. Savory also aids in digestion and has astringent and antiseptic properties.